Colombian government suspends ceasefire with ELN guerrillas

Colombian Interior Minister Alfonso Prada (center) speaks next to High Commissioner for Peace Danilo Rueda (left) and Minister of Defense Ivan Velasquez (right) during a press conference in Bogota on Jan 4, 2023. (RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP)

BOGOTA – The Colombian government has decided to suspend ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN), after the guerrilla group denied it was part of a bilateral ceasefire agreement announced by Colombian President Gustavo Petro on New Year's Eve, a top official said Wednesday.

"In view of the position taken yesterday (by the ELN), advising that a ceasefire agreement should be taken up at the negotiating table, we have decided to suspend the Dec 31, 2022 decree and address it in the next round of talks," Interior Minister Alfonso Prada said at a press conference.

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The government's initial ceasefire announcement followed an ELN request in December, after the group agreed to abide by a unilateral ceasefire from Dec 24 to Jan 2 for the holiday season, Prada said.

"We invite this organization to declare a verifiable truce in response to the imperative call of ethnic and peasant communities to maintain a bilateral ceasefire and non-violence in their territories," he added.

READ MORE: Colombia advances towards restarting peace talks with ELN

Since taking office in 2022, Petro, Colombia's first leftist president, has proposed a "Total Peace" policy involving the country's various armed factions to put an end to over 50 years of fighting that has victimized millions of people.